Dyspnoea, which is commonly referred to as shortness of breath, is a condition that is characterized by uncomfortable breathing. It is not uncommon for people to feel out of breath after indulging in strenuous physical activities or due to altitude sickness, but sudden onset of breathlessness that is accompanied by a sharp pain in the chest must never be ignored. Medical assistance must be sought if episodes of dyspnoea are recurring and they also seem to be disproportionate to the level of physical exertion. Frequent episodes could even be indicative of serious medical conditions.
Symptoms of breathing difficulty (dyspnoea)
Causes of breathing difficulty (dyspnoea)
Breathlessness could be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. Here are some of the medical conditions that may cause breathing difficulty.
During an episode of dyspnoea, the affected individual experiences difficulty in drawing in enough air or oxygen. Laboured breathing and feeling of suffocation are the characteristic symptoms of dyspnoea. The affected individual may also experience other symptoms that may vary depending on the underlying cause of shortness of breath.
Diagnostic Tests for breathing difficulty (dyspnoea)
- Chest Pain: Breathing difficulty may be accompanied by chest pain, in case of people suffering from heart-related problems, costochondritis, pulmonary problems, and panic attacks. Symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath are likely to be experienced by a person having a heart attack.
- Wheezing: Shortness of breath could be accompanied by wheezing in case of people suffering from asthma, emphysema or lung disease. Wheezing can be identified by the whistling sounds and usually gets worse during the night or when the person lies down.
- Sweating: Sweating and breathing difficulty may be experienced during a heart attack, panic attack, or an asthma attack.
- Nasal Congestion: Nasal congestion could also disrupt normal breathing. Shortness of breath and nasal congestion may be experienced by people affected by persistent cold, cough, sinusitis, and allergies.
- Headache: Breathing difficulty could be accompanied by a severe headache or headache on one particular side of the head in case of an allergic condition or sinusitis.
- Nausea and Vomiting: Consumption of certain food items can cause an allergic reaction in some people. A severe allergic reaction can cause nausea, vomiting and dyspnoea.
A physical examination and the analysis of the medical history of the patient is required for diagnosis. Diagnostic procedures that may be employed include:
Treatment options for breathing difficulty (dyspnoea)
Immediate medical attention is required for people suffering from severe shortness of breath. Supplemental oxygen is provided for alleviating the symptoms arising from low oxygen levels.
- Drug therapy may also help improve the condition of the affected individual. Drugs are prescribed after ascertaining the underlying cause. Bronchodilators and anti-anxiety drugs are often prescribed for alleviating the symptoms.
- Occasional episodes of breathlessness may occur if people who live a sedentary lifestyle indulge in a physical activity. Such individuals need to make lifestyle-related changes. Following a daily exercise routine will prove beneficial.
- Since obesity is a risk factor, there's a need to keep a tab on one's weight.
- Smoking can increase the risk for lung problems and various other medical conditions. It would therefore be best to quit smoking.
- Since anxiety could be a trigger, relaxation techniques must be followed to reduce stress and anxiety. Performing breathing exercises may also improve the lung capacity.
Avoidance of the triggers is one of the self-care measures that you can follow to prevent episodes of breathlessness
in asthmatics. The same can be said about people with allergies. Taking drugs and making lifestyle-related changes will certainly prove beneficial. Do follow your doctor's advice to avoid complications.